With English being the world’s lingua franca, and with so much global movement of people to travel, live and work abroad, it isn’t surprising that English is currently in very high demand. It is increasingly the case that companies look favourably upon, or indeed demand, applicants who possess a decent command of English. This is very evident in Barcelona, a city where many international companies have bases and where tourism is at sky-high levels. With the current economic situation, the job market is highly competitive and being able to officially evidence your level of English can significantly help you to stand out from the competition and increase your chances of getting the job you want. One popular option for obtaining official recognition of English is to take the IELTS exam. IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System and, as its name suggests, is an official internationally recognised qualification. The IELTS is a British exam of English, developed by the University of Cambridge. Numerous academies in Barcelona offer courses especially dedicated to preparing candidates for the IELTS exams.
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Related article: MBA Programs |International English-Speaking Programs
About the exam
There are two different type of IELTS test, Academic Training and General Training. Academic Training is used for admission to undergraduate and postgraduate courses, whereas General Training is the test used for work or migration. The exams, which test English at specific levels, consist of 4 parts covering all the domains of English language use and understanding (listening, speaking, reading and writing). Each part must be completed within a specific time limit.
You must sign up for the exam in advance and it is advisable to do so early to ensure you can sign up for a place and time that suits you. The British Council handles the registrations for the IELTS in 29 locations across Spain, including Barcelona. The IELTS registraion currently costs €210. More information regarding fees, dates and testing centres can be found on the British Council website.
The IELTS qualification
The exam paper is marked according to a set of specific criterion. Around 1 – 2 weeks after the exam, candidates receive a Test Report Form setting out their Overall Band Score, as well as a breakdown of their scores on each of the four
sub-tests: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. The Overall Band Score is calculated by taking the average of the total of the four individual sub-test scores. This results in an overall band scoring, on a scale of 0 to 9. Generally speaking, a score of 6 is required to evidence your English language competence.
How to prepare
It goes without saying, the more you practice and study for the exam, the more confident you will feel going into it. It is important not only to possess a mix of practical language skills, but also some knowledge about the format and procedures of the exam itself. This can be achieved either through a program of self-preparation, by attending classes, or a combination of both. In bookshops and online you can find several books with interactive CDs designed to help you to prepare and familiarise yourself with the format as well as refresh and refine your reading, writing and grammar skills.
The major advantage of attending classes to prepare for the exam is that it allows far more opportunity to practice the speaking elements, and also to receive feedback from the teacher regarding your strengths, weaknesses and areas that require more concentration. Teachers usually have a great deal of experience and understanding of the exam, which allows for more structured and efficient learning and lets you have a better idea of your progress and readiness for the exam.
Group classes offer a friendly, supportive and social atmosphere. They tend to be less expensive than one-to-one classes. On the other hand, one-to-one classes allow for a much more personalised learning experience, with more time for you to engage and interact. This can result in a faster rate of learning. The teacher will adapt to your individual needs, designing classes which strengthen your weaknesses and reinforce your strengths.
Where to prepare for the IELTS in Barcelona
Barcelona is full of language academies, most of which offer some kind of IELTS preparation courses. The British council is one of the most prestigious and well recognised provider of such courses. They offer individual, semi-individual, and mini-group courses for the IELTS. Depending on your level of fluency, they offer 12, 15, 20, and 30 hour preparation courses. Classes are carefully prepared and delivered by native-English speaking teachers with a university degree and years of experience teaching the IELTS.